Versatile Summer Crunch Salad

I think it is safe to say that summer has finally arrived here in the Northeast. We wait long and patiently. I’ve finally put away my heavy sweaters and traded cozy fireplace nights with dreams of warm days and cool nights. I also started dreaming up dishes that cool the palate and refresh during those toasty days. Chalk it up to another one of those times when I just started pulling whatever I had to create a salad for lunch. Now remember, salad is a term that sums up any combination of food that is cut up in small pieces, and can be served cold, room temp or even warm. Think about it; a salad can be of fruit or lettuce. It can be potato or pasta. Bean or tabouleh. You get the picture. The word salad is probably one of the most versatile words I know in the culinary world. So why not create a versatile salad, one that can be used in a variety of ways.

Here goes. As you know from other salads I’ve made, I cut each ingredient in ways that combine well for that particular salad. Some items sliced, others diced. In this salad, in order to create a chunky bite- ful, cut all the veg to approximately the same size.

The line up: Fennel, red onion, scallions, mini bell  peppers, English cucumber, celery.

The line up: Fennel, red onion, scallions, mini bell peppers, English cucumber, celery.

Ingredients

1 English cucumber, seeds removed, cut in cubes
7 mini bell peppers*, seeds removed, cut in pieces
1 heaping c fennel, stalks & bulb, cut in chunks
2 scallion, sliced
1/4 c red onion, diced
3 celery stalks, cut in pieces

* If you don’t have the mini peppers, use one regular sized red pepper

Dressing
3 T fresh lemon juice
1.5 T fennel fronds, minced
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 t salt
1/4 t black pepper

I feel silly even writing the title ‘Instructions’ and giving a step by step since all this is chop and dress. Maybe I should just leave it at that. Chop. Whisk. Dress.

For some salads I leave the seeds in an English cucumber. For this one, no seeds. I use a demitasse spoon to scrap the seeds because it’s the perfect size. Then I cut down the center lengthwise and then cut cubes.

For some salads I leave the seeds in an English cucumber. For this one, no seeds. I use a demitasse spoon to scrap the seeds because it’s the perfect size. Then I cut down the center lengthwise and then cut cubes.

Chop all your vegetables and place in a bowl. As I mentioned, for this salad, the key is chopping everything into bite sized chunks. That helps to create the crunch factor.

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Mini bell peppers

Mini bell peppers

Red onion

Red onion

Scallions

Scallions

I used both the fennel stalks and the bulb, chopping them in chunky rounds.

I used both the fennel stalks and the bulb, chopping them in chunky rounds.

For the dressing, just whisk together all the ingredients and pour over.

Super simple, fresh mix of lemon juice, fennel fronds, salt, pepper and olive oil.

Super simple, fresh mix of lemon juice, fennel fronds, salt, pepper and olive oil.

Pour and mix and sit and think of all the ways you will use this salad.

Pour and mix and sit and think of all the ways you will use this salad.

Chunky, crisp, refreshing with lots of flavors mixed up in every bite.

Chunky, crisp, refreshing with lots of flavors mixed up in every bite.

So why is this versatile? Because it can be the base to bigger salads or to fill out a lunch plate as I did. I grilled up some asparagus, sliced some avocado and spooned a heaping of this crunch salad for a satisfying lunch.

Then the next day I included it on a lunch plate for JuanCarlos which featured salmon, arugula as a base with the crunch salad on top alongside some store bought tabouleh. Now that is a lunch for a king. King JuanCarlos.

lunch.salad.salmon.jpg

But in case you need a few other ideas:

  • Add chick peas, or make it a multi bean salad adding black beans and cannellini

  • Add tuna and stuff the whole kit and kaboodle into a pita

  • Cook up some pasta shells and toss them all together

  • Use the full leaves of Boston or Romaine and fill them with this mixture

Ok, you get it. That’s a start. I trust you will come up with a few of your own. For now, start with the base and build from there. Salad: versatile no matter how you dice it.

Happy Summer!

 

Rice & Quinoa With A Crunch

As I was editing the photos for this post, I dawned on me just how much inventing I actually do when it comes to food. (Well, actually anything in my life really. More to come about votive candle holders I’ve been hand painting which will be up for sale soon.) The reason it came into light was because I had forgotten that I even came up with recipe and combo until I looked at the photos. Then I went scouring through all my little slips of paper where I jot down ingredients and amounts to find the notes for this recipe. I seriously might have forgotten about it all together had it not been for this blog which requires me to write shit down. Thank you, thank you, thank you for forcing me to photograph, catalog, measure and archive all my inventions. For decades, I had been coming up with food combinations which I made that one time only, and never or rarely repeated again. The top pretexts for no repeats; one, because when I see ingredients I don’t think about what I did last time, I see something new. Two, because apparently I don’t have as good a memory as I think. Three, without writing it down, there is no way of recouping exactly what I did. So, if I don’t have a recipe or even a hint of what I once did to go by, I might as well create something fresh.

There are some recipes that I do make over and over again. Like Boquerones Skewers, Stuffed Piquillos, or Salmon Burgers or Indian Spiced Rice. Quite frankly, it’s because I have this blog to jog my memory with images and recollections of a meal past. I now use it as my own personal recipe book. (I hope you do, too.) And so at this exact moment I’ve found another raison d'être to continue writing and creating. Not just for you all, but for me, too.

I wish I could recall exactly why I came up with this one, but it escapes me now. Maybe it was that I didn’t want to just serve rice, or just quinoa and figured why not put them together. Maybe I was riffing off my Glorious Grains - Moroccan Style. Whatever the guise, I’m glad I riffed because it was a fluffy, crunchy delight. And one I will now definitely make again. This, of course, got the two thumbs up seal of approval from my daily taste testers - JuanCarlos and Jill. or J to the second power as I like to call them.

The main line up: Basmati Rice, Quinoa, Pepitas, Slivered Almonds, Fresh MInt, Red Pepper Flakes and Chinese Chives.

The main line up: Basmati Rice, Quinoa, Pepitas, Slivered Almonds, Fresh MInt, Red Pepper Flakes and Chinese Chives.

Ingredients

1 c Basmati Rice
1 c Quinoa
1/4 c Pepitas, toasted
1/4 c Slivered Almonds, lightly toasted
1 c onions, chopped
1.5 T fresh mint, julienned
1/2 t red pepper flakes (adjust to your liking)
1/2 c Chinese chives, chopped*
3 T Olve Oil
1 t salt
1/4 black pepper

Instructions


1. Sauté onions in olive oil, add salt and pepper until softened.

Chopped onions ready to soften and give off their sweetness.

Chopped onions ready to soften and give off their sweetness.

2. Add rice and quinoa and let the grains lightly toast before adding 3.5 c water, cover and let simmer

until cooked.

The onions only need to softened, then in goes the rice, then quinoa so they can toast and absorb some of the sweet onion and oil flavor.

The onions only need to softened, then in goes the rice, then quinoa so they can toast and absorb some of the sweet onion and oil flavor.

Quinoa in the pot to get coated with oil and onions, too.

Quinoa in the pot to get coated with oil and onions, too.

3. Meanwhile, in a pan toast the pepitas and almonds separately. Be careful to only lightly toast the

almonds as these are delicate and can burn quickly and easily, which is why they need to done them separately.

Toasting the pepitas.

Toasting the pepitas.

3. Mix all the ingredients together and taste for seasoning. Serve immediately.

I know I’m known for making a vinaigrette and drizzling it over a dish, but after tasting it, it actually didn’t need a thing. I conferred with JC, and he agreed. Leave it just as it is. More evidence why it’s important to taste as you go. However, if you wanted to make this more of a salad type of dish you could add a lemon vinaigrette. It will change the texture of both the starches and the crunch factor, but I imagine it would tasty just the same. Try it my way first, then decide for yourself.

Everything ready.

Everything ready.

In go the pepitas.

In go the pepitas.

In go the almonds.

In go the almonds.

I may seem like a lot of chives, but it’s not. It’s actually the perfect amount.

I may seem like a lot of chives, but it’s not. It’s actually the perfect amount.

Mix it all up gently. I was going to add a vinaigrette but JuanCarlos tasted it and said it needed NOTHING else. So there you have it.

Mix it all up gently. I was going to add a vinaigrette but JuanCarlos tasted it and said it needed NOTHING else. So there you have it.

I guess it doesn’t matter why I came up with this combo, it only matters that it answered the call. And it definitely delivered on my hope for serving more than just rice or just quinoa. And the deciding factors were:

The red pepper flakes gave a hint of heat while the mint produced a fresh, vibrancy.

Heat

Heat

Cools the heat

Cools the heat

The Chinese chives provided that mild onion note.

Chinese chives. Longer and flatter.

Chinese chives. Longer and flatter.

It may seem like a lot but you need a lot to cut through the starch

It may seem like a lot but you need a lot to cut through the starch

And of course, the pepitas and almonds packed the crunch, which you know I love.

Crunch AKA Pepitas

Crunch AKA Pepitas

Crunch2 AKA Slivered Almonds

Crunch2 AKA Slivered Almonds

All in all, a great little side dish starch that fills the belly and the soul. I served it with lentils and sautéd grey sole.

A medley of flavors. Fluffy AND Crunchy. How great is that?

A medley of flavors. Fluffy AND Crunchy. How great is that?

Stir Fried Greens with Crispy, Spicy Rice Noodles

finalplatter.jpg

We recently returned from 10 glorious, 87 degree days in Miami to the brutally stark contrast of 7” of snow and no food in the house. My immediate thought was of course our serious food shortage situation. So before more snow fell I needed to get to the grocery store and stock up. My second thought was to ensure that I stocked up on greens. And that is all due to our eating patterns during this last trip. Normally when we are in Miami we eat fairly lean. Lots of salads, fresh cut fruit and lighter fare. But this trip was indulgence, and more. More of everything and anything, including sun. So my NY shop was going to be all about getting back us back on track. I filled my cart with lots of produce to make soups and sautéd veggies. And I was on a good track except that as I was looking for true buckwheat noodles, meaning no wheat, just buckwheat a lady placed a package of rice noodles back on the shelf. What else could I do but grab them? Now with my shopping cart busting, and some noodles to make me smile, I went home. (Notice that I didn’t have a third thought of how cold it was. I was betting on the “let’s not focus on the mound of snow” attitude.)

First, I made two different soups which we slurped up for 2 days. But I really didn’t feel like slurping anymore and needed to chew on something, and not just drink my meals. As I stared down at all those greens stir fry was the immediate light bulb. And even though there was snow on the ground, I ventured out to the shed to get our plancha* as thoughts of stir fried noodles and veggies floated in my head and made my tummy gurgle.

*plancha = flat metal grilling surface or pan

A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. Serious commitment to cooking.

A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. Serious commitment to cooking.

I was fully aware that I was getting a jump start on dinner by cooking at 11am. So I resigned to the idea of eating this dish for lunchtime and making enough to share with ‘others’ (my hubby and sister) so they could enjoy at dinner time.

Here’s what I pulled out of the fridge.

A bounty of greens

A bounty of greens

Scallions, Cilantro, Swiss Chard, Carrot, Onion, Baby Kale, Baby Bok Choy.

First things first. You should know the drill by now. MISE EN PLACE, people. Cut it all up and ready it for stir frying. I grabbed just handful of each. This is stir fry so you can add as much of each as you like. Amounts are of no consequence here. Let me say that again. Amounts DO NOT matter. Use what you like or what you have.

Now that is a beautiful board full of chopped up veggies.

Now that is a beautiful board full of chopped up veggies.

Look at the vibrancy of that chard!

Look at the vibrancy of that chard!

I’m not usually a big fan of bok choy, but this fresh and tender and tossed with noodles, that’s another story.

I’m not usually a big fan of bok choy, but this fresh and tender and tossed with noodles, that’s another story.

Before I tackled stir frying the veggies, I cooked my rice noodles and set them aside. Then on my plancha, I added olive oil and two veggies at a time. I cooked each one separately to keep their integrity. Plus I wanted this dish to have the same feel and eating style as you often see in a big bowl of Asian soup. You know the kinds where all the toppings are sectioned off on the top of the soup and you stir them in as you wish.

I gathered my mise en place board of nutrients, and readied them up next to the plancha for easy grabbing. I only seasoned the veggies with salt, pepper and drizzle of sesame oil as each one cooked, then plated them onto a large platter before enhancing the noodles that were standing by.

The real seasonings was going on the noodles.

The rice noodles I just had to grab. I love me some noodles.

The rice noodles I just had to grab. I love me some noodles.

It fits perfectly over two burners. I love this plancha.

It fits perfectly over two burners. I love this plancha.

Bok Choy and onions getting stirred with love.

Bok Choy and onions getting stirred with love.

A good shot of vitamin A, vitamin K and vitamin B

A good shot of vitamin A, vitamin K and vitamin B

Once everything was stirred with love I got a slurry of spiced sauces ready. In a cup I mixed a tablespoon of red curry paste, a heaping tablespoon of Thai chili paste, half tablespoon of chili oil and 1/2 cup of olive oil, and a tad of sesame oil. I didn’t actually use all of it. You can use as much or as little heat as you desire.

noodles.stirfry2.jpg

Having left the scallions on the plancha, I dumped my cooked rice noodles onto the grill and drizzled the slurry on top, then let it cook away until some parts got crispy. I added in the cilantro, then I cut some more and added it to the top.

noodles.stirfry.jpg

Done and done. I couldn’t stop eating this. I think I ate too much. So much for eating light again. Sure there were greens, but in order to truly accomplish the lean eating I would have needed to swap the noodle to veggie ratio a bit. Something I recommend you do if you don’t want to rice noodle your way into a carb coma… like I pleasantly did. What can I say, I love noodles.

finalplate.jpg
 
DP-stirredwlove-ID1.jpg

Rice Noodle Rags with Stir Fry Veggies

stirfry.final.jpg

Yes, noodles again. It should be abundantly clear by now that I like noodles. It goes deep, my friends. My love for the noodle is profoundly imbedded in my DNA, pulling me toward them. A comfort that wraps me up like a warm blanket. And so, I am forever toying around with combinations of ingredients to conceal… I mean, accompany the noodle.

I resemble that joke about “have some coffee with your sugar.” That is my philosophy with noodles. If left to my own devices, I would eat them straight up plain. Not extra items need be added. However, I will admit that the other ingredients do enrich their flavor and bring more nutrients to the table. And for those reasons, I chop, dice and cook up noodle-enhancing ideas.

Let us start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. It didn’t actually start with the noodle. But instead, with pan on which I would be cooking. This stir fry noodle story actually was spawned by my husband’s complete and utter obsession with the Chef Frances Mallman. He is a world renown chef and an outdoorsman who loves to cook in the wild, and therefore has big grills and planchas. Thus the impetus for us buying a plancha.

What is a plancha, you ask? It is basically a flat metal plate for cooking. We purchased ours online from Little Griddle.

Funny thing is, I have used this plancha more frequently than my grilling, outdoorsman-mimicking husband. And that is how I came up with this stir fry a la plancha style dish. I was keen on using it, so I grabbed all my veggies and started thinking about what I would stir… fry up with love.

Don’t ask me why I had all these veggies in the house. That answer should be completely known to you all by now. I see it. It looks good. I get excited. I buy it. (It is then my job to figure out what to do with them once home.)

Now with the plancha perfectly situated on my stovetop (I’m less the outdoorswoman grilling type so I brought it indoors), I began stir frying up a storm.

I’m not going to give you amounts. This truly is about pulling out what you love and using it in whatever quantities you have or making it for the amount of people you need. (Hint, you can get an idea of amounts by looking at the photos.)

stirfry.setup.jpg

ingredients

Baby Bok Choy, leaves separated
White or Nappa Cabbage, sliced
Purple Cabbage, sliced
Yellow & Orange Pepper, bite sized pieces
Bean Sprouts
Long Hot Pepper, sliced
scallions, thick slice
Red Onions, large dice
cilantro, chopped
Rice Noodle Rags
Turmeric
Cayenne Pepper, optional
Olive oil, salt, pepper

 
A bounty of good nutrients to counterbalance my rice noodle addiction.

A bounty of good nutrients to counterbalance my rice noodle addiction.

instructions

Chop and dice vegetables in bite sized pieces. Clearly you might not have a plancha like ours, so you can use an equivalent. A wok, of course, would be perfect or a large grill pan. Use what you have, the idea is to sauté/stir fry the vegetables over medium high heat. Meanwhile, soak the rice noodles in warm water for 15 minutes. Then submerge them in boiling water for another 5 minutes, and set aside.

Rice noodle rags soaking in warm water.

Rice noodle rags soaking in warm water.

I combined the sweet and hot peppers with the onions and scallions. Then add oil to the plancha and began stirring.

Look at that rainbow of colors. Also know as nutrients.

Rainbow equals nourishment for your body and soul.

Rainbow equals nourishment for your body and soul.

Then I add some turmeric and dash of cayenne pepper to the cabbage. If you don’t want any more heat, leave the cayenne out. There is spice in the long, hot peppers. Or make it spicier. Your call.

Cabbages getting turmeric-ed and spiced.

Cabbages getting turmeric-ed and spiced.

Remove the other veggies, then stir fry the cabbage separately, and do the same with the bok choy.

cabbage.stirfry.jpg

The bok choy leaves are more tender than their stems which is why I didn’t cook these with the cabbage. I felt that each needed care with their cooking times to keep the veggies crisp but tender enough. Also, there was about 8 cups of bok choy, so the plancha would have been too crowded.

Bok Choy, bright green and vibrant.

Bok Choy, bright green and vibrant.

Once all the veggies are cooked, put them all back on the plancha and add the cooked rice noodles. Stir in the bean sprouts to warm through and stir all together. Top with freshly chopped cilantro, or if by chance you have made my tahini-peanut sauce, this would be a great place to use it. If not, this is great just as is.

Than is a boat load of goodness.

Than is a boat load of goodness.

Turned into a bowl full of yum.

Turned into a bowl full of yum.

Plancha or no plancha, find a way to stir fry up some nutrient packed veggies and toss in rice noodles for that warm blanket comfort feel. I promise you will continue to find ways to stir up noodles. If not, then you can add noodles to your veggies!

Indian Spiced Potato Pancakes

potato.pancake.final3.jpg

Since I can’t eat bread... Pause for the appropriate sigh of sympathy, I’m always searching for something that will act like bread. Either as a layer to be used for toppings or to help scoop things up. So, when I aspired to make an Indian style meal for my husband and sister, I of course purchased some yummy naan like bread for them. Leaving me without a vehicle to push and scoop up my food. And as I lifted these soft yeasty breads of out my shopping bag, I was even more convinced I needed to treat myself to something equally yummy. I remembered that we had potatoes and figured I could craft myself an Indian style pancake that would do the trick.

So besides the no yeast limitation, another issue (or should I say issues) for me, is no eggs and no wheat. Shall we pause again, for a bigger sigh of sympathy. I dare say, yes. Without eggs and wheat flour, how the heck does one hold things together? And, I’m not just talking about ingredients. My emotions need to be stabilized, too! (Remember when I made salmon burgers? There are some clues. Check out that recipe here.)

Some people make potato latkes with grated potatoes. Others make them with mashed potatoes, but most use flour and eggs to bind them. I thought about using ground flax seeds mixed with water to bind, as that is a usual egg substitute but instead harkened back to the concept of combining textures to hold them together just like I did with the salmon burgers.

These were my ingredients: Idaho potatoes, potato flour, hot peppers, scallions, cilantro & spices

These were my ingredients: Idaho potatoes, potato flour, hot peppers, scallions, cilantro & spices

So I boiled and mashed some of potatoes and grated the rest. Then combined them together with the spices and a tad bit of potato flour.

ingredients

3 c potatoes, boiled
1.5 c potato, raw, shredded
1 t fresh cilantro, minced
1/3 c scallions, sliced
1 T red/green long hot pepper, small dice
1/4 t curry powder
3/4 t salt
1/4 t cumin powder
2 T potato flour

Salt, cumin & curry: The spices that make it special.

Salt, cumin & curry: The spices that make it special.

Instructions

1. Cut and boil some of the potatoes. When done, drain well and mash them up.

2. Meanwhile, chop, mince, dice the other ingredients. Don’t grate the remaining potato until you are ready to
combine, or soak in water to avoid browning. But then make sure you squeeze out all the excess liquid.

3. Combine all ingredients and then add potato flour.

Mise en place: everything in place and ready to assembly.

Mise en place: everything in place and ready to assembly.

That’s a nice looking mixture about to take form.

That’s a nice looking mixture about to take form.

Simply add the potato flour to combine throughout.

Simply add the potato flour to combine throughout.

4. Form into patties. You can go freeform with your hands or use some form to help shape them.
I used approximately 2 T of mixture, and formed them into 2.5” rounds and 1/2” thick. I also
made a few very thin. I liked both thickness for different purposes.

First I used the small ramekin because it was on my board holding the spices.

First I used the small ramekin because it was on my board holding the spices.

Then I remember that I had an actual mold that was the same size, so I used that instead.

Then I remember that I had an actual mold that was the same size, so I used that instead.

5. Fry in a cast iron pan with olive oil until you get a good crust on both sides.

Over medium high heat is how you get these crispy, giving you crunchy texture on the outside and soft potatoe-y goodness on the inside.

Over medium high heat is how you get these crispy, giving you crunchy texture on the outside and soft potatoe-y goodness on the inside.

These lasted but a moment in my house. After this shot was taken, but one or two were left!

These lasted but a moment in my house. After this shot was taken, but one or two were left!

Holy crap, these things were delicious, and with a delayed kick. These potato pancakes were part of an entire Indian inspired meal. If you read the post featuring Dal, which incorporated the long hot peppers, then you will know that I didn’t think those peppers had a lot of heat, so I added jalapeños to the Dal. When making these pancakes, knowing that the rest of the meal had spice in each dish, I didn’t want to add more heat. So I only used the long peppers, and didn’t add jalapeño. Thank goodness I didn’t. I never expected these to have a kick, but for some reason in these potato pancakes, the heat from the peppers came shining through in a very pleasing ‘I want more’ way.

One more note. I will admit that just like anything you fry to get that crisp outer coating, they are best when freshly made and served immediately. They taste great warmed up the next day and day after, but they just don’t have that fresh crispy edge.

Here are the ones that I made thinner. As you can see, they are even crispier. Either way; thick or thin, they are quite tasty and satisfying.

Here are the ones that I made thinner. As you can see, they are even crispier. Either way; thick or thin, they are quite tasty and satisfying.

You can serve this a thousand ways, beside as a side to an Indian inspired meal. Here are a few other ideas.

  • Top with sour cream and add smoked salmon or trout

  • With fried eggs, maybe add hollandaise sauce, or raita

  • Dollop of hummus, Baba Ghanoush or Tabouli

You see where I’m going. I trust you will come up with your own long list. Or do as I did... Eat them all on their own!